Talking About Teaching

YSJOn Friday 23 January 2015 I visited York St-John’s University (YSJ) to attend their ‘Talking about Teaching’ event which this year was themed around “Inclusive Learning, Teaching and Assessment”. The fifth year of this annual event, saw around 12o YSJ staff coming together to have conversations, share ideas, reflect on current practice and consider ways in which inclusive pedagogies could best be strengthened going forward. For the purposes of the event YSJ defined this theme as:

“…any number of approaches that meet the needs of students from a variety of backgrounds, learning styles and abilities, with the emphasis on equality and diversity.”

With two keynote sessions, a choice of morning workshops and afternoon teaching and learning conversations there was plenty of opportunity to hear about and discuss curriculum design related research and practices in relation to developing inclusive teaching. However for the purpose of this blog post I have chosen to focus on the two sessions that I attended which most reflected the student voice within the process.

The Stratus Writers Project: listening to our students on the autistic spectrum

In the morning I attended an excellent session led by Jonathan Vincent who had carried out a participatory action research project, to identify solutions that could be put in place to mitigate some of the learning challenges faced by students’ on the autistic spectrum. The session was based around a dialogic task – transcripts from student interviews were provided and we were invited to discuss these in small groups and annotate our thoughts on the challenges the students’ faced, what was being done already to address these, and suggest any additional interventions we could think of. Following this exercise, there was the opportunity for feedback and discussion around some of the strategies suggested for implementation. Jonathan collected our comments to collate into a good practice document as a practical outcome of the session – emphasising that students on the autistic spectrum make up a complex and growing population and that solutions are not – one size fits all. However as a bonus any interventions adopted to support students’ on the autistic spectrum can be equally useful to their peers. You can find out more about the Stratus Writing Project via the YSJ website.

“We have a dream”

In the afternoon I attended a lively informal session led by two YSJ students (Laura Jackson and Gabby Wilson) who used student feedback to recommend how to deliver sessions that are engaging and inclusive. This covered both approaches students currently appreciated and what they considered could be improved upon. Here is some of the feedback:

Students appreciate:

  • good communication, and clear guidelines on what is expected of them
  • approachable lecturers: open and welcoming – no question is considered too ‘silly
  • hand outs at the start of sessions so they can focus on understanding and learning
  • lecture capture if available
  • a flipped classroom approach to learning with lots of discussion / Q&A opportunities
  • engaging lecturers who use of a broad range of examples – tailor sessions with examples appropriate to the diversity of the student population
  • appropriate language being used to the level of their experience/expertise
  • creative approaches to teaching and learning / making learning fun
  • being assigned roles in group work situations so they all have a defined purpose
  • diverse assessment methods and anonymous marking

Students struggle when:

  • lecturers talk to fast, deliver too much content and don’t allow time for questions
  • lecturers read straight off presentations
  • lecturers are negative about a topic – e.g. this topic is dull, it will be boring
  • teaching spaces are poor / inappropriate – this can have a big impact on learning
  • there is a lack of consistency across their learning experience
  • there is poor internal communication amongst staff

Communication: the key to inclusive learning, teaching and assessment

Finally thank you to all at YSJ for an engaging day, packed full of opportunities to listen, discuss and reflect on building inclusivity into curriculum design, teaching, assessment and student support.

If I was going to take away just one key message from the event – it would be that students are the experts in the student experience and the key to improving inclusivity for all is providing opportunities for two-way dialogue to inform the design and delivery of courses.

Posted by Jane Gaffikin (@tali_hud)

Posted in Conference, Inclusivity, Learning experience, professional development, Research, student engagement, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New student journal publishes high quality peer reviewed research

The University of Huddersfield has recently published the first issue of a new journal of Huddersfield student research. Fields is quite unique as a journal in that it gives students, both undergraduate and postgraduate taught, the chance to publish their work through a rigorous academic peer review process. As well as giving a platform to this excellent research, the process gives the students valuable experience of the publishing process – something which they can draw on if they choose to pursue a career in academia.

There was an official launch for the journal in the new Heritage Quay archive facilities, where Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Tim Thornton and Editor Professor Michael Clarke met with the student authors to celebrate the publication of their work. The student authors talked with passion about the research they had undertaken and published in Fields. The students all highlighted how they welcomed the opportunity to make their work available, gave thanks for the support they had received and saw the benefits in revisiting and updating research to develop it further.

“I was delighted to hear the students speak about their research with great passion and enthusiasm and see their excitement about their undergraduate work being made publicly available in Fields. It confirmed my view of the quality of work being done by our undergraduates and the potential to raise aspirations and profile through its publication in a properly refereed journal.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Professor Tim Thornton


Photo of Fields launch

(from left) Professor Michael Clarke, Reece Goscinski, Christine Armstrong, Rachel Miller, Laura Lockwood, Professor Tim Thornton

“At Huddersfield we believe strongly in inspiring our students to work to the very highest standards and to see the work they do, even as undergraduates, as having the potential for further impact in the wider world in terms of research and the discovery of new knowledge. Fields is designed to encourage students to aspire to such high standards, not simply to think of fulfilling coursework requirements when undertaking assignments but to consider the larger picture, and to be excited at the potential of academic exploration. It encourages students to see themselves as part of a stimulating environment in which innovative academic investigation is undertaken. For students we hope that Fields will provide a challenging and stimulating goal, inspiring some to consider the possibility of continuing their academic work as research students.”

Professor Michael Clarke, Head of Research for Music, Humanities and Media, and Editor of Fields

“The experience of writing for the journal has certainly been a positive one. It has allowed me to develop publication skills, improve my academic work and take on board different perceptions and criticisms. The opportunity has also allowed me to revisit a piece of work that I am particularly proud of and present it to a wider audience.”

Reece Goscinski, student author, on Harold Wilson’s Pipe

Visit the Fields webpage for further details or contact

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Take your lecturer for a coffee – developing conversations

Following the Educating Huddersfield event organised by the University of Huddersfield Students’ Union (SU), the Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI) in collaboration with the SU is offering students a voucher to ‘take a lecturer for a coffee’. The aim is to promote student and staff conversations about teaching and learning and is part of developing a partnership approach to the educational experience at Huddersfield.

The Teaching and Learning Institute has already contacted all students who attended the event to offer them an opportunity to explore in an informal way some aspects of teaching and learning. The vouchers are for £10 and can be used in most of the catering outlets on campus.

If you are a University of Huddersfield student and you are interested in this scheme, you can collect a voucher from Natalia Rosca or Karolis Pantelejevas (TALI Project Assistants) in the Central Service Building, level 10, room 06.

Please email them to set up a date/time to collect: Natalia Rosca and Karolis Pantelevejas 

Update 24 March 2015: As a result of the scheme there has already been some positive and productive conversations about improving class participation, teaching methods and more. We hope you will take part in the conversation.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen, Research assistant at TALI

Please follow our team on twitter @tali_hud

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The Challenges and Benefits of using Google Sites for e-portfolios

At the Technology Enhanced eLearning Education (TEEE) Festival (8th-12th September 2014), Cheryl Reynolds from the School of Education and Professional Development delivered the session ‘The challenges and benefits of using Google Sites for eportfolios’.

The session outlined how Google Sites was a way for students to write, organise and share their e-portfolios, instead of using the traditional way of printing out the portfolios. Students have the possibility to create something similar to a small website which they can structure and populate in the way they want. They can also write and post Blog or Vlog posts, as well as track their overall progression. Using Google sites has had excellent feedback from tutors and from students. They commented on how it has streamlined their submission and assessment practices, improved their level of engagement with the self-assessment process and allowed them to represent their learning in novel ways that are shareable with a wider audience.

Image Source: Natalia Rosca

Image Source: Natalia Rosca

Benefits to students:

  • Usability – excellent, user-friendly interface that produces slick results.
  • Privacy and Control – only student, teacher and course administrator will be able to see their e-portfolios and other people only if the students give permission to them.
  • Portability – you can connect to Google Sites wherever you are and via any smart device.
  • Digital literacy and multimedia usage skills.
  • A new and interesting approach to portfolios.
  • Easy to keep track of what you have done and comments from tutors.
  • The potential to share the eportfolio with peers, mentors, employers and prospective employers

Cheryl comments: Unlike other proprietary tools, Google Sites offers the trainee teachers a solution that they can deploy in their own teaching with their own students.  Just by signing up for a free Google mail account, they can create and share their own eportfolio template with students so that they in turn can develop digital literacy. Our provision, therefore, has a greater potential impact on our trainees’ students than eportfolio tools that are not available to them in this way, such as Campus Pack, SharePoint or PebblePad.

 Benefits to tutors:

  • Manageability – easily accessible, easy to control and everything is online in one place
  • Mobility – connect anywhere via any smart device
  • Flexibility – can mark from anywhere at any time on any device that has internet access
  • Digital literacy – develops expertise in the use of tools that map well to the Mozilla web literacy standards (, which represents the sorts of skills that people will need when working in an internet age.

Institutional benefits

  • Streamlined, paperless moderation and examination, with the ability to do this remotely.
  • Ensuring the institution is adapting to the needs of students and tutors in an internet age and not being left behind in this regard. This in turn is good for the quality of the provision and for the reputation of the institution.

Cheryl comments: Our ‘digital estate’ is as important to the future of the University as our physical estate. The environments we offer online need to be impressive. Google environments have the advantage of being slick and ubiquitous.

Challenges for students:

  • Logging in – as University of Huddersfield uses the Microsoft platform, students need to have different usernames and password rather than log in via the established student portal.
  • Digital Literacy – whilst many of our trainees are highly digitally literate, some have a lot to learn in this regards. Some students don’t currently have positive dispositions towards technologies and find the call to engage with technology challenging.

Challenges faced by tutors

  • Digital Literacy – as with trainees this varies widely and it is challenging to ensure that staff across large and dispersed provision are confident in the use of the eportfolio for personal development planning.
  • Time management – you can easily get ‘sucked into’ e-portfolios and spend a lot of time on them.
  • Transparency – everything that a tutor does, such as correcting a task, writing comments etc., is visible on the eportfolio with exact dates and times.
  • Security – see above

 Institutional challenges

  • Providing a cost effective and institutionally supported eportfolio system as part of the single sign in.

Institutions may want to sign up to the framework agreement negotiated by the Joint Academic Network (JANET). Colleges and universities in the UK, are eligible to sign up to Google Apps for Education using a contract approved by Janet as meeting UK legal requirements. This Cloud Services for Education Agreement give colleges and universities peace of mind in relation to security, resilience, legal and data compliance, cost and functionality.

See more on the JANET Google apps for education page

Posted by Karolis Pantelejevas and Natalia Rosca, Project Assistants on work placement with the Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI). Additional comments by Cheryl Reynolds.

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Educating Huddersfield: teaching worth sharing

On 3rd December 2014, the Huddersfield Students’ Union (SU) organised an event to develop new ways of enhancing dialogue between students and staff and to promote a partnership approach to improve the educational experience. The event was opened by Michael McGougan (SU Vice President Education) and Professor Tim Thornton (Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning). There was a great line up of speakers and this post represents just a few of the highlights.

Student and staff working together

Ellie Russell, projects officer at The Student Engagement Partnership, spoke eloquently on the importance of students being part of creating excellent teaching and learning and institutions developing student engagement processes where the student voice is embedded and where students take an active part in their own learning.

Engaging large groups of students

Mark Mynett, a lecturer in music technology and winner of a Thank You Award for Inspirational Teaching, spoke about getting learners’ attention and keeping it. Mark outlined a number of approaches to achieving this:

  • Speak enthusiastically about your subject
  • Use stories (and real world examples) in order to engage students
  • Encourage questions and discussion throughout the lecture
  • Place listening at the foundation of your practice
  • Ask students to problem solve
  • Ask questions rather than provide answers/information
  • Be open to constructive criticism.

There was also a very moving speech from Musharaf Asghar who took part in Educating Yorkshire.

“Poetry is the voice at the back of the head”

The poet Lemn Sissay (MBE) closed the event with an engaging talk on the primacy of imagination arguing that something has to be imagined before it can happen thus making the act of imagination as real as the physical thing.

He reminded us all how important it is to be wrong, to keep learning, keep developing and move beyond the binary of right/wrong.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen and Jane Gaffikin (@tali_hud)

Posted in Learning design, Partnership, professional development, Research, student engagement, Teaching | 1 Comment

Student engagement: links and resources


I have been collating a few useful links and resources for a colleague asking me about student engagement, I thought I would also share them here. For the benefit of any reader, I should point out that there is no simple or agreed upon definition of ‘student engagement’ and that, for example, the concept has different roots in the UK to the US, which has an impact on how ‘student engagement’ is understood and what practices are included within the term.


Higher Education Academy ‘students as partners’ work

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) Student engagement

Examples and other resources

Posted by @kshjensen

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Researching, Advancing and inspiring Student Engagement (RAISE) Conference 2014

I went to the Researching, Advancing and inspiring Student Engagement (RAISE) Conference in Manchester on 11-12 September. The theme was Student Engagement: Opportunities for all. The hashtag for the conference was #raise14  and I have used Storify to collate some of the tweets in my story of RAISE conference 2014

The organisers used the online tool padlet for delegates to share ideas and thoughts whilst they mingled, a very effective tool for this kind of collaboration. You can see the raise padlets with all the ideas/comments on:

Jean Mutton from the University of Derby made a really great point about the problems of jargon and all of us need to be aware that most students will not know what terms like ‘student engagement’ mean. This issue becomes even more important when thinking about how we evaluate student engagement schemes and activities.

Students mapping their HE experiences

I found the session by Dr Camille Kandiko Howson (King’s College London) very useful in terms of keeping a focus on the student perspective. Dr Kandiko Howson talked about ‘Students as stakeholders? Community, engagement and belonging’ and shared findings from the research commissioned by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) into student expectations and perceptions of higher education. When students were asked to draw maps of their student experience, the complexity of students’ lives really stood out.


Using Lego for reflection and sharing of experiences

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to get my hands on some Lego and learned about how it can be used for ‘playful’ evaluation. It was great that the presentation gave us the perspectives of a student, a member of staff (Haleh Moravej) and an academic developer (Chrissi Nerantzi). It is a powerful and fun tool.

The resilient learner Photo by @kshjensen CC BY

The resilient learner
Photo by @kshjensen

Students and staff as social media collaborators

It was great to learn about the student and staff at Salford University who are running a twitter account and hearing about how this experience had given both confidence in engaging with digital tools, being professional online and had contributed to breaking down hierarchies between staff and students. The twitter account is @nursingSUni and they also run a Salford University Nursing blog.

More about RAISE:

RAISE is a network of academics, practitioners, advisors and student representatives drawn from the Higher Education Sector who are working and/or interested in researching and promoting student engagement. The network creates opportunities to come together for beneficial scholarly discussion and creating collaborative projects, sharing good practice and lobbying for investment and better policies locally, sectorally and across our international community. Join the RAISE network

Posted by @kshjensen

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